I popped up out of the bed with a start, disoriented and confused, I can’t even remember when I fell asleep. Did Hunter fucking drug me? I wouldn’t put it past the bastard, he had been persistently trying to get me to rest.
“DAMMIT, Hunter!!” I screamed at the top of my lungs, I didn’t know where he was but I’d make sure he heard me.
“I see you’re finally awake.” He replied, coming into the room with a plate of pasta topped with salmon, and a cola beverage. “I just wanted you to take a nap, didn’t expect you to be out for almost a day and a half, if you weren’t breathing, I would have thought you were dead… Trust me I kept checking.”
He laughed, finding the circumstance a riot, but I didn’t see the humor in it and my face showed it. He sat the plate on the end table, and passed me the beverage, he dug in his pocket and pulled out two pills. I looked at him like he was an asshole, he just laughed at me again.
“I swear Bae, it’s just a mild asp..”
“Shut the fuck up! I don’t want to hear it!” I cut him off, slapping the pills out of the way. “How dare you, Hunter, you know how I feel about pills and all that junk..”
“I know, I know.. I just needed you to rest for a while, you were just doing too much, all without any sleep.” He said, moving some of my dreads out of the way, so it wouldn’t get in my food. “When I saw you out there helping them harvest, I knew I had to make the choice for you.”
“I was fine!”
“NO, YOU WEREN’T!” He screamed, getting frustrated with my stubbornness, he stopped himself and tried to calm the situation. “You almost died, I almost lost you, and whatever your body did to save you, had to have taken its toll. You really need to take it easy, take the time to heal.”
He was right, I was acting reckless, and I needed to do better, if not for me, for him. I took the aspirin from his hands, and swigged them back with the drink. I ate some of the pasta, which was delicious, and smiled at him sarcastically.
“Where are the rest of the gang?” I asked, before digging back into the food.
“Tzar just headed out back to help Gran and Patience pull the last of the corn crop, and that’ll be the last of it, they haven’t counted the inventory, so you can help with that if you like. Caiden is out and about making some kind of alarm system, it’s crazy, made out string and cans..” He laughed, I did too, but hey, whatever works.
“What are you about to do?..” I asked him, mouth still full of food, but he was my man so I didn’t care.
That’s when we heard the screams, Hunter acted on instinct, and bolted from the room. I put my plate down, and noticed I wore only some boxers and a tank, but I didn’t care, I bolted out the room and down the stairs behind him. Gone was the stiffness, for the most part, my body was surely starting to feel like its former self, this is how I felt when I started working out the first time. When we hit the back porch, I didn’t see the problem at first, but I saw Tzar and Gran tussling with something. The corn blocked most of the view, but when something black flew off, holding what looked like a braid in its clutches, I knew things were taking a turn for worse.
“What is that?!” Hunter asked, pointing off into the sky, the sun was setting in the west so it blocked our eyes.
I used my hand for cover and tried to see, but soon a cloud blocked out the sun, then I gasped and clasped onto Hunter’s arm. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, a great migration of birds, larger than the one I had seen the other day, so large they cast shadow over the sun. I could see Tzar carrying Patience and dragging Granny by the hand, headed this way, the birds high in approach. A crow landed beside us on the porch, it’s eyes were swollen and red, it’s beak stained with black. It cried loudly, as if to signal to its friends, they were just in time for supper.
“Hey, you piece of shit!” Hunter screamed at the infected pest, trying to shoo it away, he took off his shoe and threw it. “Get the fuck outta here!”
The shoe connected, spot on, and the bird cried angrily. It flew up and swooped in fast, almost taking off Hunter’s head, it kept going, and came straight for me. I dodged and grabbed the broom, sitting by the door. I was more of a tennis player, but I was seriously about to get my Jackie Robinson on, or would this be classified as cricket? I didn’t dwell on it as I swung, missing the bird, and almost clobbered Hunter. It came for my face and tried to latch onto my dreads, but I was ready for that, I caught it off guard and it hit the floor. Hunter started stomping its head, smashing it to pieces, I turned to see the birds swooping in for the kill. My heart stopped as Tzar just happened to trip, bringing Granny down on top of him, the infected birds missed them by mere inches.
“Come on! Get up run!” I screamed at them, Patience and Granny stood shakily to their feet, and Granny usher the girl to run.
Tzar wasn’t getting up, I looked as the birds prepared for another dive, and I ran toward him as fast I could. I heard Hunter scream my name but ignored him, when I got to Balthazar, I could see his foot was lodged, literally between a rock and a hard place. The ground had eroded to reveal the remnants of an old brick side trim, Tzars foot had managed to get stuck between that and piece of large rock still partially buried beneath the earth. I grabbed part of it and braced myself, and pulled with all my strength. At first it wouldn’t move an inch, my heroics would prove itself a fruitless venture, a waste of both our lives. Suddenly, the soil around the rock slowly began to budge. Taking us both off guard, the rock itself, snapped in half.
“What the fu.!” Tzar started to say, sitting up, but I hopped on top of him, barely missing the birds come in for their second death dive.
Some of them were smarter and picked at my back with their beaks, one got my hand real good. I covered Tzar because I didn’t know if they could pass along the infection, I assumed I had immunity, so I’d take on the threat. When we were clear, I picked him up and pulled him towards the house, where Hunter was waiting with the door open. We barely hit the latch, when we heard the bang on the door of them trying to break in, but thankfully it was a thick oak. We heard someone come in, slamming the front door, and we looked to find Caiden breathing hard, like he’d ran a marathon. He had his back to the door, and was wet with sweat, his face and clothes were soiled with dirt. He just looked at us, as he caught his breath.
Patience cried in my arms, and I gently inspected her scalp, sure enough there was a bald spot in the back. A small patch of scalp was missing and it was bleeding, I asked for the first aid kit, and tended her wound. It wasn’t too bad, it was covered by the rest of her hair, and she didn’t have any other cuts or lacerations.
“They are eating the rest of the crops, good thing we picked most of it already..” Tzar remarked, as he peeked out the back window. “Now they’re just sitting out there..”
“Stay away from the windows!” Caiden ordered, as he played with six cans, hanging by the window closest to the door. “And nobody touch these cans, I have them set up perfectly, and you could mess it up.”
“Is that the new alarm system?” Tzar asked incredulously, Caiden just gave him a look that quickly shut him up.
“How does it work exactly?” I asked, sincerely curious.
“I have stakes, wrapped in twine, zigzagging the whole outer perimeter of the property, if anyone hops the gate on any given side, a corresponding can will shake to worn us.” Caiden explained, as he finish adjusting one of the lines.
“How do we know it will warn us in time?” Tzar asked him.
“We Don’t.” Was Caiden’s only reply.
I had helped Tzar count what we had in storage, plus what we’d harvested from Granny’s garden, it looked like we had enough to pass the winter. The Betty would hold all the food as she was the largest storage unit, we could ask for, and she had a freezer. I left Tzar in the kitchen, to work his magic, he had always preferred to cook alone.
I walked down the hall to check on Granny, sometime in the early evening she had another relapse, this time Tzar was victim to a pop in the mouth. We had long stopped holding it against her, the old woman was more victim to herself than either of us ever could be, it was hard not to pity her. I checked down the hall toward her room and was surprised to find Patience sitting outside her door, she looked at me with sad eyes. I held my hand out to her, an offer she refused, but I didn’t take offense. She wanted to help the old woman, and she knew enough to know that she was going through pain, I just nodded in understanding and left her alone. I made my way to the den, where I found Hunter and Caiden in a heated discussion.
“We should leave tonight, Loki is more than ready to travel.. I don’t see why you want to wait till the end of the week?!” Hunter pressed his brother, who looked like he had something on his mind.
“We can’t, there is a storm coming, and we can’t travel the road with Grandma like that..” Caiden tried to explain, but Hunter was adamant.
“I think you’re stalling, what is it you’re hiding from us?” Hunter asked him, voicing his skepticism of his brothers intentions. “Don’t use that old woman as an excuse for your lies!”
“Hunter, please.. This will get nowhere with you two fighting.” I said, revealing myself, and they both turned at my interruption. “He might be right, your Gran isn’t in the best condition to travel, and we have to think of Patience as well.”
“Bae, are you sure? We don’t have to listen to him, the Betty is ours, we can go right now if we want.” Hunter said, I could see on his face, that I was supposed to get the hint and side with him like I always did.
“We have more people to think about than just ourselves..” I said softly, looking to Caiden, so I didn’t have to see the disappointment on his face. “We leave tomorrow night, no matter the circumstances, I mean it.”
I gave Caiden a look that, told him this wasn’t up for discussion, and he just nodded affirmatively, taking what ever compromise he could get. I did feel he was up to something, but maybe it was to our benefit, who knew? Hunter stormed from the room, out the front door, and I knew he felt betrayed. In the past I ALWAYS sided with him, hell, I’d given up so many comforts and easy riches, to be with him. Things were different now, there were loved ones depending on us to make the right choices for the whole. I followed Hunter outside, and I thought he would have jumped on the Betty, but he was standing at the foot of the porch stairs waiting. He looked up to night sky, in the distance you could see storm cloud cover, but for the moment the stars were shining bright and clear. It was a little nippy, so I just snuggled against his back, and wrapped my arms around him. When he didn’t reject me, I drew in a little tighter.
“I’m sorry babe, but you know why I had to do that, right?” I asked, whispering into his back.
“I do, you don’t have to explain, you were right.. We don’t have the luxury of being selfish anymore, it’s no longer just me and you against the world, it’s us and them.” He said, with a nodded of head toward the house.
“It’s always gonna be me and you, hell, if I died the other day, you just might have been the love of my life.” I told him with a laugh, he turned in my arms, and squeezed me close.
“Don’t say it if you don’t mean it..” He whispered through a smile as he brought our lips together.
“Don’t you two sluts get started, cause dinners ready!” Tzar came out, interrupting us, taking off his oven mitt and apron. “We wouldn’t want soiled hands at the table, now would we?”
“And this nagging bitch wonders why he didn’t get wifed up before the apocalypse.” I remarked to Hunter, with a roll of my eyes, loud enough for Tzar to hear. “I don’t think we’ll ever get him married off.”
“Yeah, yeah, just bring y’all asses on!”
Dinner consisted of a superbly done, stir fry vegetables and a side of deviled eggs, courtesy of Tzar’s talents. Granny unfortunately wasn’t able to join us, she refused to even leave her room, while her grandsons allowed negroes to degrade their great granddaddy’s home. Even so, Balthazar made a plate for her, and told Caiden to say it was take-out. It worked, and we were able to enjoy our meal with a peaceful mind.
Everyone was having a great ol’ time, the conversation was filled with friendly banter and funny stories from our respective childhoods. Balthazar won for most outlandish true story, with his ‘Boogie Man’ recantation. He had always been afraid of monsters or malicious murderers being under his bed, always checking under his bed till my aunt had finally broken him of the habit. Then one night after she had came and tucked him in, he kept hearing noises and smelled something really weird. He almost refused to look under the bed, but whatever it was, moved, and pushed up the mattress. He looked under and found a man that was covered in beer, piss, and vomit. Some drunk homeless man, trying to escape the winter cold, had broke in and fallen unconscious under his bed. Of course, we had a riot at the story, but it was some seriously creepy shit.
Dinner ended a bit late, but on a good note, Caiden even extended an offer for Hunter to stay in the house. I immediately saw the sour look on his face but I kicked him under the table, he got the hint, and accepted graciously through a grit tooth smile. Caiden did a perimeter check of the house, while Tzar and Patience went upstairs to get some sleep. Hunter and I bogarted all the pillows, and made a makeshift bed on the floor of the living room. It wasn’t the most comfortable, but I had Hunter’s body as a consolation prize. I didn’t know the time, but I knew we had drifted off quickly.
Some point in the night, I heard a voice and some shuffling around, but when I rose up, I neither saw nor heard anything. I got up and moved slowly through the darkness, navigating my way to the kitchen, I was about to turn on the light, but I saw that’s the back door was slightly ajar, my breath caught in my chest as the fear iced it’s way up my spine. I rushed to the door, peeking out into the darkness of the night. I was about to close the door but I saw a small light in the distance. It was coming closer, fast, and seemed to flicker as It moved. That’s when I heard her, it was Granny, she was ranting but I couldn’t hear her till she got closer.
“I told you! I told you, the neighbors would see! We’ve brought these dark demons into my dear daddies sacred home! May god have mercy on us..!” She screamed, running this way, as fast she could. “They’re here, They’ve come for them! They’ve come for them all!”